Matthew 5:14-16 is one of the Biblical verses that sounds like a charge to Christians to keep. Anytime a sermon is being delivered in church concerning this verse, I become buoyed to make an impact in society. I’ve been doing a thorough introspection about this verse in the past few weeks and I’ve been asking myself whether we as Christians are truly living by this verse.
John 8:12 also says “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”.
In trying to find an answer to this question, I asked myself what it means to be a light to the world? I’m reminded in Genesis 1:1-3 that, after God created the heaven and the earth and realized that the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters and He said, Let there be light; and there was light.
It can be deduced from this verse that light brings clarity and order. Another instance of the importance of light I found in the Bible was when Jesus was born and the three wise men went to visit him. They attributed their ability to locate Jesus to a star that guided them and we all know stars are natural lights that appear at night. It can also be deduced from this account that, light provides guidance.
It is common knowledge that light doesn’t exist in a vacuum but has a source. The greatest source of light, in my opinion, is the sun. The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. Its distance from the earth is 149.6 million km. What makes it great is not just its distance but the effect of its enormous light on life on earth. The energy from sunlight supports almost all life on earth and drives earth’s climate and weather.
During my Integrated Science lessons in primary school, I was taught that Plants have specific organs in their cells that convert sunlight to food energy through a process known as photosynthesis. It is by plants that herbivores such as cows are fed and then the humans feed on the cows. In this way, sunlight provides the source of food for all life on earth. Plants through Photosynthesis also produce wood and biomass from which fossil fuels are derived. I was also taught that thirty minutes of daily exposure to early morning sunlight provides our bodies with Vitamin D which helps in the creation and maintenance of bones.
Some flowers such as the Sun Flower, blossom upon exposure to sunlight through a mechanism called heliotropism (seasonal motion of plant parts (flowers or leaves) in response to the direction of the sun.
While climbing the academic ladder, I was also thought that solar energy from the sun can be used to generate electricity. The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth’s non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined.
I’m sure by now you’re wondering how all these are related to Matthew 5:14-16. I believe in order to have a clear idea of what Jesus meant by we being the light of the world, inference can be drawn from the sun. This is because light from the sun reaches every part of the world and positively impacts life on earth. Its works speak for itself and credit mostly goes to God for creating it. If the sun is to be used as a yardstick to gauge us, can we confidently say that we’re the light of the world? I do not think so. I feel Christians have become the light of the church rather than the light of the world expected of them.
Most Christians quote this verse and deliberately leave out the verse 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your father who is in heaven”.
One trait about the light produced by the sun is, its non discriminatory or unbiased nature. It doesn’t choose to shine at a place and neglect other places. It’s light shines on every earthly element at its disposal and have an effect on it. The same sun that lights our paths during the day and gives us vitamin D, also helps plants prepare their food through its leaves by virtue of photosynthesis. It is through photosynthesis that some herbivores are able to find food in plants. All these works by the sunlight can be termed as good and visible to every human on earth.
Can this quality be found among most Christians? I don’t think so. Most Christians are only helpful and concerned about the welfare of their fellow Christians and not people outside the Christian faith. I was recently irked by someone’s facebook post that said Christians shouldn’t take unbelievers as role models; where unbelievers mean those who don’t believe in the works of Christ. Interestingly, the sun shines proportionately on every living human being irrespective of religious faith, gender, ethnic affiliation etc. It doesn’t choose to give vitamin D to a Christian and neglect people of other religion. Thankfully, after Jesus said “You are the light of the world”, he gave a yardstick concerning its intensity, i.e. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your father who is in heaven”. It didn’t say let your light shine before Christians but men (in this context refer to every human being irrespective of religious faith, family ties, nationality or ethnic affiliation).
I’ve realized that the light produced by the sun brings transformation to every living thing on earth. If the sunlight helps plants produce food through the process of photosynthesis, let’s ask ourselves the number of people outside the church our lives have brought the best out of upon coming into contact with us. If the light from the sun can give humans vitamin D which helps in the creation and maintenance of bones, let’s ask ourselves the number of broken lives outside our churches that have been built and made fit as a result of they coming into contact with us. If sunflowers can blossom upon exposure to sunlight, let’s ask ourselves the number of shrunk lives outside our churches that have blossomed upon coming into contact with us. If sunlight possesses energy, it is possible that all lights possess energy. Let’s ask ourselves the number of weak lives outside our churches that have been energized upon coming into contact with us.
I was highly incensed when I was complaining to a friend about how Christians have exempted themselves from policies such as the Sustainable Development Goals that sought to solve problems facing human life on earth and she replied if SDG’s was the solution to human problems, Jesus would have said it and not told Christians to win souls. This is one of the reasons why most Christians are not being the light of the world and making a great impact on the world.
Eastwood Anaba in his latest book #AllSufficiency couldn’t have summed it any better when he said “Many of the areas in which believers are supposed to make impact are not traditionally regarded as spiritual. Believers have abandoned the fields of politics, entertainment, sports, academic and business under the pretext that they are non-spiritual. By so doing, we have woefully failed to make impact on the world”.
I believe in as much as Jesus came for the redemption of humanity from the shackles of sin, he was the light of the world due to his ability to positively impact people’s lives irrespective of age, gender, religious affiliation etc. The Bible never said the multitudes he fed with 5 loaves and 2 fishes all believed in him as the savior. Neither did the Bible say the people who attended the marriage ceremony that Jesus turned water into wine were Christians. Nor did the Bible say the woman who Jesus met at the well and asked her for water was a Christian.
A look at Jesus’s ministry on earth shows that he was an expert at everything (physical and spiritual) concerning human life. That was why when Jesus watched on as Simon Peter and his people helplessly cast their net at the left side of their boat without catching anything, he directed them to cast their net to the right side of the boat. Even though people treat this as spiritual, I believe it is just common sense that when you’re doing something continuously and it’s not fruitful, you resort to other ways which Peter failed to do.
Jesus also played an adjudication role when a woman accused of committing adultery was about to be stoned. In the end, the woman was freed upon the intervention of Jesus. John 8:1-11.
Jesus affected the world through his actions and not just words. Let’s also learn to do same. Let’s not only strive to have expertise in things concerning spirituality but let’s also be concerned and get involved in things that aim to improve human life and our environment at large.